In Rosenberg, Texas, just on the outskirts of Houston, a small neighborhood church is making a big impact. Real Hope Community Church offers a compelling example of a small church putting down intentional roots in the heart of the community it serves.
Real Hope was formed in 2016, launching with the assistance of partners such as the Association of Related Churches (ARC). According to Ryan Lokkesmoe, lead pastor at Real Hope, ARC assisted with many structural aspects of launching and operations during the church’s first year. This assistance was complemented by other church partners, who worked with Real Hope in a relational capacity.
Putting Down Roots
Like many young churches, Real Hope first began meeting in a school building. On Sunday mornings, they rented an elementary school, and on Sunday nights, they gathered across the street at a local coffee shop. For the first few years of its ministry, Real Hope grew steadily, and it wasn’t long before they began to feel rooted enough in the area to pursue their own physical location.
“We didn’t have a place that was ours outside of Sunday,” Lokkesmoe says. “How would we make ourselves known to the community during the rest of the week?”
The Real Hope team began looking for office space near the church’s regular meeting places, but quickly scrapped the idea due to the expense. While separate offices would have been convenient for the leadership team, they didn’t feel the move aligned with their community service goals. Instead, they looked to the downtown Rosenberg area, where the church had spent a significant amount of time serving.
Lokkesmoe and the Real Hope team felt called to address issues in the Rosenberg community, including poverty and a host of other important needs. In 2018, the church purchased three city lots on Third Street in historic downtown Rosenberg, one of which was home to a 1920s bungalow. The adjacent lots were both empty.
As Real Hope rooted more deeply into the community, they began to consider moving their church home to downtown Rosenberg. In 2020, they opted to build a new sanctuary on one of the empty lots. That’s where my team at PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio came in. From our roots, God has always given us a specific heart and calling for church plants, wherever they are in the world—whether that’s a developing nation or in the heart of small-town America.
Incorporating Small Town Flavor
Just months before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down churches and businesses all over the world, Real Hope got started on their plans for the new building. Lokkesmoe and his team were passionate about manifesting the vision and heart of their church. They were laser-focused on becoming a fixture in a part of town where their presence made a significant impact.
“We wanted Real Hope to be a place where, when people showed up, they’d get a sense of our personality and what we hope to achieve just by being on campus,” Lokkesmoe says. “We weren’t going for big, expensive, cookie-cutter stuff. We wanted small, charming, meaningful, creative.”
Being on-site for the initial discovery gave me a taste for Rosenberg’s local, small town flavor and an insightful glimpse of the backdrop we had to work with. Real Hope’s setting at the edge of a picturesque, walkable downtown and a historic neighborhood was the perfect inspiration for the look and feel of the new building. I was particularly impressed with their ingenuity and creativity within the historic home they were already using as their office space.
Lokkesmoe and his team took us out to dinner at a local establishment, Bob’s Taco Station, where we drew inspiration over hot tamales and tacos. Right away, we established that it was important for the new building to blend in effortlessly, rather than sticking out and drawing undue attention to the structure. It needed to feel like it had always belonged in the heart of the neighborhood.
To tie the new building into the character of the existing environment, our team master-planned and designed a midcentury-style building with Texas Hill Country elements. Our team also took on the top-to-bottom design elements, including the logo, colors, signage and recommendations for furnishings and decor.
“From the beginning, we’ve wanted to be thought of as a friend to the community, whether or not people come to our church,” Lokkesmoe says.
Fitting Right In
On top of the plans for the new building, Lokkesmoe’s team opted to renovate the historic bungalow. Once refreshed, it would be named The Club House, and it would serve as a dedicated children’s ministry space. Conducting the renovation during the process of master-planning the new building was the perfect opportunity to add an overall aesthetic that would tie both buildings together while preserving the distinctive character of each.
The end result is a juxtaposition of classic and modern. Real Hope’s Club House bungalow now sits adjacent to the small, postmodern-style sanctuary our team designed. It’s truly a focal point for the surrounding neighborhood, featuring an outdoor gathering space in addition to roll-up glass doors across the building’s front.
Those windows open up to a casual wraparound patio that faces the surrounding community and creates an instantly welcoming atmosphere. The roof extends out over the patio to shelter members and visitors from the elements. With the doors open, there’s plenty of space for community gatherings and casual meals under the oaks.
“It’s really a community-based space,” says Matt Molsberry, principal architect at PlainJoe. “The church building itself isn’t a house, and it doesn’t look like a house, but it seems to fit into the neighborhood.”
We worked with Real Hope to create a space that feels welcoming, creative and warm. According to Lokkesmoe, the church has been well received by the surrounding neighborhood. And not just that; the city of Rosenberg took notice, recently awarding Real Hope a community beautification award.
“To have those affirmations from the city, from our neighbors—even building inspectors—has been great,” Lokkesmoe says. “What God has done has been really amazing.”
To learn more about Real Hope Community Church and its initiatives in Rosenberg, visit RealHopeCC.org.